Growing up, September was always my least favourite month. As someone who has always been both shy, introverted, and suffering from severe anxiety issues, you can imagine how much I looked forward to going back to school each year. However, September of 2010, the year I went off to college for the first time, was a particularly frightening experience. However, after a couple of weeks, I eventually made a boatload of new friends, got completely settled in, and it became almost TORTURE to go back home when the school year was over!
The following year was even more frightening. I graduated from my 1 year introductory program, and moved across the country to study the performing arts. That’s right, folks… theatre school. A swirling vortex of extroverts competing for attention. How on earth was I going to survive? Well, lo and behold, I made it out alive, and my college years ended up being some of the best years of my life. I made friends with whom, for the first time, I had real things in common, I developed a whole new set of skills and honed my existing ones, and, probably most importantly, I learned a LOT about myself, who I am as a person, and what I have to offer the world.
At the time that this is being posted, school will have just started for most people. So for anyone who is going off to college, university, tech school, or any other form of post-secondary education for the first time, or for anyone who is returning and is just looking for some extra guidance, here are some of the lessons I learned that I hope will help you too.
Keep your room/apartment/dorm clean!
This isn’t just advice for people with roommates (although it’s ESPECIALLY true for you guys… don’t be THAT roommate!), it’s also really important for folks living alone! Your environment often mimics your state of mind, and visa versa. I am someone who can’t even begin to function if my apartment is messy. (Seriously, I’ve had panic attacks over a sink full of dishes… ask my boyfriend!) You may not realize it, but if you keep the messes at bay, and everything it it’s place, you will automatically feel much more at ease in your surroundings! Plus, you won’t have to throw everything under the bed when someone comes over for a surprise visit!
Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself/make mistakes!
This is definitely a lesson I learned in the throes of acting class, but it can definitely be applied to any sort of field of study. School is a place where you prepare for the real world. You practice for situations which will occur in reality later on down the road. The only difference is, in school, you have a safety net beneath you. So if you fall, it’s okay! There really isn’t anything at stake in this situation (except maybe a grade, but I’m not talking about failing a class here), so don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because when we make mistakes, we learn very important lessons! (Hey, where do you think I came up with all the tips in this article?)
Appreciate the structure of your schedule!
Not so stoked for that 8am class? Suck it up, sister! Not to be blunt, but when you graduate, and have to hit the ground running, there isn’t going to be anyone or anything to be accountable to, or force you to wake up early, apply for that job, get that project done on time… you get the picture. So appreciate the structure while you have it. It won’t be so easy to get things done when the only thing you have to rely on is self-discipline (which believe me, is not always going to be there for you…:P).
Eat…. A LOT!
…But a lot of the RIGHT foods! Your body (and especially your brain!) needs energy, and not just the kind of energy you get from a Snickers bar and a large coffee! As the old adage goes, “You are what you eat!” Well, that motto had to come from somewhere, right? If you’re living off of coffee, ramen noodles, and take-out meals, your body is just going to feel crappy, and run-down! Make a healthy grocery list, look up some delicious recipes, and keep your body and mind fuelled all year long!
Take time for yourself!
If you’re more of an introvert, like me, you might expect this to be an easy thing to do. But with all sorts of different tasks, social expectations, and deadlines coming at you from al different directions, you might start to lose touch with yourself! Since I lived on the west coast during my college years, I was lucky enough to live 10 minutes away from the beach. This was an awesome place to escape to whenever I was feeling anxious, melancholy, or burnt out. Take a walk around your neighbourhood, go for a run, have a bath, or just shut all your blinds and have a Netflix binge! Do whatever you need to do to give your heart and mind some breathing room.
Be proud of who you are!
This is definitely another lesson I learned going through theatre school, and probably the most important one at that! Particularly in the first few weeks/months of the school year, you will see a LOT of exaggerated versions of people. Everyone is coming together from different backgrounds, and everyone is trying to prove to everyone else that they are the best at what they do. Please, friend, try not to get caught up in that whirlwind! All it really is, is a lot of wasted energy! Eventually, things will settle down and people will start to understand you for who you really are anyways, so don’t bother trying to paint a picture of someone/something you are not, for everyone else to see. I wish I could grab every single one of you by the shoulders, look directly into your eyes and speak these words directly into your soul, but I can’t, so caps lock will have to do…. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO EVERYONE ELSE! You are such an amazing person, with so much to offer the world, and trying to mimic the energy of someone else is only going to make you fade into the background even more. So get out there and let it be known that you have nothing to prove! You are amazing!
Those are all of my tips for the moment, although I’m sure I could go on for pages and pages about this. Be sure to leave a comment letting us know a valuable lesson YOU learned in university/college. Or if you are just starting yourself, let me know one of your goals or something you want to achieve by the end of the year/by the time you graduate! I’d love to hear from you!
All the best!